You know you’re in for an interesting journey when the opening credit lines of a film are:
“This Project Was Funded Through Gold Digging”
When I asked Matt Pastor, a 23-year-old Australian born man of Pilipino, Malaysian and Spanish ancestry, and the brainchild of a noir film called Made In Australia to explain this, he simply said it was both metaphorical and literal all in one.
How so? Well, this is a story about love and relationships. Money and love do go together. For better or worse, that’s reality.
YouTube trailer (explicit content)
This simple yet juxtaposed concept seems to sum up both Pastor himself and his work in making this film. A highly passionate person, he wrote, directed and acted in a project that transcends the genre of Asian film and weaves a mixture of themes common to Australians of Asian background in contemporary Melbourne. One of the most powerful quotes that grabbed my attention before I had even seen the film was:
“People act very strange when they lose face…”
Anyone living or doing business (or in a relationship) with someone of Asian descent would be familiar with the concept of saving (and losing) face. Some people dismiss the notion as a simple deflection of responsibility, or just a different form of what many westerners would label “shame” or “embarrassment”, but in truth the concept runs much deeper than this.
If you cause a loss of face an enormous emotional reaction boils beneath the surface, sometimes to the extent that restoring this loss of face means the act must be avenged. This is just one element of Asian culture that Pastor wanted to capture in his story.
A series of films within a film, Made in Australia is a true noir story of humiliation, infidelity of self and emasculation. It is raw and powerful, and at times confronting, but as Catheriya Trinh of the Gertan Group currently representing Pastor, says, that is real life.
“This is not a sob story about Asians arriving by boat and how we struggle to fit in,” she says. “This is story about how we live.”
Indeed, both Pastor and his team are all of the same view. This is Australia and we all came from somewhere. Metaphorically speaking, and in many cases literally, we all arrived by boat. Once again, a symbolic yet powerful sentiment that underpins the story.
Made in Australia is an autobiographical depiction of Pastor’s own life as a young man at odds with the world after a particularly nasty break up, in which he loses face in the most emasculating way possible.
Critique wise, Made In Australia has already received some high level praise from all the right places. Winner of the Best Guerrilla Film at the Melbourne underground Film Festival, it’s also getting international runs on the board. Amiel Courtin-Wilson, Director of Ruin, the Special Jury Prize winner at the 2013 Venice Film Festival 2013 calls it “A highly personal, brave feature film debut.”
Katrin Gebbe, Director of Nothing Bad Can Happen, which featured at the 2013 Cannes Film festival sums it by stating the work is “like a self crucifixion.”
Dr Indigo Willing, Co-founder/Director of the Asian Australian Film Forum calls it a genre all its own. “It is not a glowing feel good ‘ethnic’ themed film.”
Metaphors, similes and analogies are a key tool in the kit belt of any good story teller. Doing this on paper is hard. As crime writers we hold deep respect for those who can master this part of the craft. But putting it to film is even more difficult, yet Pastor has done this with ease, almost to the point where his film really deserves a second or third viewing before you’ll capture the double meanings and character flaws in the both subtle and not-so subtle delivery. To this end, it seems Pastor has followed the golden rule of story telling; everything counts or nothing counts.
“Everything is a metaphor,” says Paster. “Everything in the film means something, but means something else too.”
And he is correct in that, because this is not a film to watch when distracted. Not only would you miss key twists, character points and fail to absorb what the story portrays, the double meanings and metaphors that underpin the story and real life, it would be ultimately disrespectful.
Here is a young man who (as an only child) grew up knowing all along he wanted to make a film. Eventually his parents thought he’d grow out of it and find a real job, a career where money was par for the course. But he never did (not yet!) and this only added to his relationship break up, in a sense losing face with double barrels.
The break up sent him on a self destructive but soul searching journey to Hong Kong, where half the film is shot and real people used to act out elements of their own lives, lives which somehow fit into his storyline without really having to change. Why? Because the story is about real life, so it isn’t that much of a stretch to have someone act themselves, provided they are brave enough.
I say brave “enough”, because the film pulls no punches. Think about everything you do in a day, and in a relationship, and Pastor has it covered, even to extent of comparing the act of going to the toilet a symbol of love, because “Love is never a shit place.”
Yet while being literal, he’s also being facetious, for the entire story is about the bitter / sweet nature of love, where one day you’re full of excitement, lust and passion, and the next you’re having shit rubbed in your face by the person who supposedly loves you. You’ve not only lost face, but someone has defecated on it, and as the story unfolds, people do indeed act in extraordinary ways when they lose face.
So for those with an open mind and an appreciation for the concept of losing face, you’ll see that everyone in the film is trying in their own way to save face.
And afterwards, upon reflection, you’ll find that Made in Australia is a genuine noir story worth all five stars on the Southern Cross.